Visions of Sugar Plums: How to Make it Through Nutracker Season

A topic that covered by most major ballet magazines and news sources every November and December is that of the beloved and dreaded Nutcracker season. This week, there may be a few new tips and tricks that will help you out this year, whether you are gearing up to perform in a ballet company’s Nutcracker or any other holiday show. I want to dive into how I make it through all of the performances of this crazy show so that you too can survive the season of sugar plums and

New Mexico Ballet Company's "Snow Scene"
New Mexico Ballet Company’s “Snow” (Photo by Pat Berett)

dancing snowflakes. And check out how other dancers deal with Nutcracker here

Tip 1: Preparations
While it may seem too soon to start prepping for the stage, September and October are actually two of the best months to do so. And why is this? It is simply because these are the two months wherein most dancers are still in rehearsals and, therefore, have a bit of extra time on their hands. These are the best months to begin pointe shoe preparation for what is to come during Nutcracker season.
For me, this requires that I sew my shoes, break them in according to what part of the ballet I will be wearing them for, and set them aside for the performances. I tend to keep slightly softer pairs for “Snow” in Act I, but harder shoes for “Variations” and “Waltz of the Flowers” in Act II. By doing this, I take any additional stress regarding preparation off my shoulders as rehearsals begin to close into the final weeks before opening night.

Tip 2: Know Your Schedule
On the surface, this seems elementary; however, many dancers do not realize the extreme difference between knowing what their Nutcracker schedule is and actually understanding their schedule. Simply looking at a call board or an email is only good for knowing what time a warm up starts before a performance and when the show begins. However, recognizing the amounts of time between performances and how many days off between shows can help you not only squeeze in breaks, it can also allow you to prepare mentally and physically on your days off.

NMBC's "Merlitons" (Photo by Pat Berett)
NMBC’s “Merlitons” (Photo by Pat Berett)

Tip 3: Avoiding the Burn
In many cases, fatigue in performances can be compensated for with adrenaline rushes, however it is important to know when you are beginning to feel burned out. Generally, burnout occurs towards the middle of Nutcracker season, which can vary greatly based on how many shows you are performing in during a single season. A few common symptoms are tiredness, sore muscles, and even, in some instances, pain caused by pushing your body. Here are a few ways to combat fatigue this year:
• Get plenty of sleep on nights after and before performances
• Eat properly (refer back to my nutrition post for more ideas)
• Warm your body and your mind up properly before every show
Here’s to an amazing season of rat kings and dancing candies!

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